Manchester has got a new fine dining destination. Enxaneta has just opened on the top floor of King Street restaurant Tast Cuina Catalana – with space for just 14 seats.
The Enxaneta concept – named after the Catalan word for the youngest member of a team of ‘castellers’ (acrobats) who crowns a Catalan human castle – has been developed by multi-Michelin starred executive chef Paco Pérez. He’s keen to introduce Manchester to the gastronomic experience he is famous for across his restaurants worldwide.
The Tres de Deu menu, meaning ‘three of ten’, features ten courses (£95) while the Tres de Quinze menu, meaning ‘three of fifteen’, offers 15 courses (£135). Matched wine flights start from £65. We went along to see what diners can expect.
Tast group director Sandra Martorell, whose husband Ferran Soriano is CEO of Manchester City and also, with manager Pep Guardiola and director of football Txiki Begiristain, one of Tast’s investors, says the new venture has been on the cards for a while.
“There was always the idea for this concept, right from the beginning,” says Sandra. “Our head chef Miguel has been working with Paco for seven years. He’s used to this style of cuisine.
“And we know we’re different at Tast – it’s not a traditional Spanish restaurant. We thought that now was the right time.”
The seasonal menus are fish and seafood heavy, since Paco hails from the seaside. They’re designed to offer a flavour of Catalonia, whose unique gastronomy draws on influences from both Spain and France. The dishes are complex and unashamedly challenging.
We start with a winter consommé made from black trumpet and button mushrooms, coffee grains and vanilla, topped with a frothy cappuccino air. It’s rich and warming, packed with flavours of liquorice and earthy mushrooms, and topped with grated dried fig.
A plate of mochi – little chestnut cakes made from rice flour and filled with a liquid chestnut centre – is served alongside the broth. Inky black parcels made with mussel water are filled with spicy mussel cream, served with a fragrant saffron and mussel sauce.
Tempura prawns, served hanging from a sculpture of a giant prawn head, see tapioca tempura fried prawn skin filled with a mixture of mushroom and prawn tartar.
“You can eat all of it – even the tail if you want,” Sandra suggests.
Hot, plump little dumplings with a thin shell of ninoyaki tempura pop in the mouth to reveal a filling of pigeon parfait made from liver, heart and honey. Eat them in one mouthful.
Small bites over, it’s on to the starters. The first is a beautiful loin of tuna tartare served with powerfully salty sea urchin dashi, truffled egg yolk emulsion and pricey beluga caviar.
“You can taste the sea, it’s very strong,” says Sandra about the sea urchin, considered a delicacy in many parts of the world.
“It’s like an injection of iodine.”
Next up is a dish called Pure Peas. Sounds simple but it definitely isn’t. As well as blanched, intensely flavoured whole peas there’s a jelly made from the pods, pea hollandaise, pea consommé and pea foam.
It’s extraordinarily good. How can the humble pea pack such a punch?
“Everyone in Catalonia loves peas,” says Sandra – and we can see why. “They’re a delicacy there, they’re just so sweet.”
It’s time for Button Mushroom Diversity, a celebration of all things mushroom. A layer of mushrooms is prepared three ways – fried, sliced, and infused with codium seaweed.
There’s black trumpets and buttons, mushroom duxelle and foam, heady winter black truffle, and a rich truffle, thyme and button mushroom sauce.
Next up, sea cucumber carbonara is one of the most unusual things I’ve eaten, and all about texture. Flavours are ramped up thanks to more truffle and the addition of smoked pork chin.
It’s a long menu, but portions are small enough to not feel overwhelming.
Langoustine cannelloni with bechamel, truffle emulsion and beluga caviar kicks off the main courses, followed by deliciously rich black truffle and artichoke rice with mushroom mayonnaise and Parmesan aged for 14 months.
Slow cooked sole is served with parcels of sole skin filled with mussel cream, with fresh mussels and punchy orange sea urchin paste dressed with codium seaweed oil.
It’s been predominantly fish and seafood up until now – but meat finally makes an appearance with Wagyu beef served two ways.
It’s worth the wait.
Beautifully marbled tartare comes with beefy consommé and truffled egg yolk, then lightly seared Wagyu loin is served with charcoal roasted sweet potato and polenta foam.
The first dessert is Pijama, a sponge cake made from double cream served with a jammy blueberry, strawberry and blackberry syrup, peach jelly, baked pineapple and ice cream.
There’s a lot of truffle on this menu, and it appears again in the second pudding.
Sweet brioche soaked in chocolate is served with vodka whipped cream, truffle ice cream, truffle toffee and slivers of fresh truffle.
White chocolate petits fours with aromatic basil and olive oil are equally unusual, but so good we fight over the last one.
It’s a complex menu, full of unusual and luxurious ingredients, which probably isn’t for everyone. But if you fancy trying something adventurous, it’s a rewarding gastronomic experience filled with surprises.
There’s certainly nothing else like this in Manchester.
Enxaneta’s two menus will be served Wednesday to Saturday from 6pm-9pm. Booking is essential. The regular Tast menu will be served as usual on the ground and first floors.
20-22 King St, Manchester M2 6AG